Breaking down each Round of 16 match-up

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16 teams have gone home and now the last 16 remain to battle it out on Brazil.

On Saturday the Round of 16 kicks off as eight matches will take place to usher in the knockout stages. We have some absolute beauties coming your way as three CONCACAF, five South American, two African and six European teams continue their quests to win it all.

[ RELATED: Full schedule for last 16 matches ]

As Jurgen Klinsmann said after the USA sealed their qualification to the knockout round “this is now the start of a whole new tournament.”

Lets take a quick gander at all eight mouth-watering ties and see what we can expect. The full-size bracket can be seen at the bottom of the post.

[ RELATED: Complete bracket for Round of 16, more ]

Round of 16 matches

Brazil vs. Chile – Saturday, 28 June, 12 p.m. ET, Belo Horizonte

The hosts take on one of South America’s most likeable sides in a real humdinger. Brazil’s attacking flair will be made to work extremely hard by a Chilean side that love to pressure high. There will be thousands of Chileans in the crowd to create a superb atmosphere and this is where the hosts could come unstuck. Can Neymar be the hero or will Arturo Vidal’s Chile provide a not so huge shock?

Key men

Brazil: Neymar

Chile: Arturo Vidal

Colombia vs. Uruguay – Saturday, 28 June, 4 p.m. ET, Rio de Janerio

Another all-South American clash awaits on Saturday as Colombia and Uruguay clash at the Maracana. Colombia have been one of the stories of the tournament so far as they banged home nine goals in the group stage and won all three games to set up this tie. Their young attacking duo of James Rodriguez and Jackson Martinez have torn teams apart. As for Uruguay, they narrowly beat Italy and England to advance but are now without star man Luis Suarez for the rest of the tournament after he bit Giorgio Chiellini. These two are familiar foes, with Uruguay winning 18 of the 38 games they’ve played.

Key men

Colombia: James Rodriguez

Uruguay: Diego Godin

source: AP
Ochoa will have to carry Mexico, once again, when El Tri takes on the Dutch.

Netherlands vs. Mexico – Sunday, 29 June, 12 p.m. ET, Fortaleza

This one is a really intriguing match up as free-flowing Holland have swept aside Spain, Chile and Australia thus far. Mexico’s stubborn defense led by inspired goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will provide a really tough test for RVP, Arjen Robben and co. Can the attack-minded Dutch break down the stubborn Mexican resistance?

Key men

Netherlands: Robin van Persie

Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa

Costa Rica vs. Greece – Sunday, 29 June, 4 p.m. ET, Recife

This is not a match many had lined up for the last 16, as both teams qualified for the knockout stages as huge shocks. Costa Rica were phenomenal in qualifying as they beat Italy and Uruguay on their way to winning Group D. As for Greece, a last minute PK vs. the Ivory Coast saw them advance in dramatic fashion but it’s hardly been vintage stuff from the Europeans. Both teams will be relying on their defenses to guide them through.

Key men

Costa Rica: Joel Campbell

Greece: Giorgios Samaras

France vs. Nigeria – Monday, 30 June, 12 p.m. ET, Brasilia

The French have looked imperious thus far, banging in goals for fun and looking incredibly solid under Didier Dechamps. The last two teams to win both of their opening group games by three goal margins have gone on to win the trophy. A good omen? as for Nigeria, they are just happy to be in the last 16 after narrowly beating Bosnia. They gave Argentina a run for their money and if star ‘keeper Vincent Enyeama is on form, France could struggle.

Key men

France: Karem Benzema

Nigeria: Vincent Enyeama

source: AP
Messi is tearing teams apart at this World Cup. Next up: Switzerland.

Germany vs. Algeria – Monday, 30 June, 4 p.m. ET, Porto Alegre

The Germans are looking like the same old ruthless machine at this World Cup as they coasted out of the Group of Death. Thomas Muller is on fire with four goals so far and the Bayern Munich man now has nine goals in nine World Cup games. Algeria have beaten Germany on both of their previous World Cup meetings, but the African side will be up against it as Die Mannschaft aim to go deep in Brazil.

Key men

Germany: Thomas Muller

Algeria: Islam Slimani

Argentina vs. Switzerland – Tuesday, 1 July, 12 p.m. ET, Sa0 Paulo

The Argentine’s will fancy their chances here, as Messi is the tournament’s leading scorer with four and it finally seems like he’s going to lead them all the way to a World Cup title. That said, Switzerland blow so hot and cold that you don’t know what you’re going to get. They demolished Honduras 3-0 in their final group game but were hammered 5-2 by France in a topsy-turvy game. This game is all about one man and if the Swiss can stop him. I think not. Messi will win this for Argentina.

Key men

Argentina: Lionel Messi

Switzerland: Xherdan Shaqiri

Belgium vs. USA – Tuesday, 1 July, 4 p.m. ET, Salvador

Belgium won all three group games. 2-1. 1-0. 1-0. They are tight at the back and clinical going forward but fail to create many chances… Sound familiar? The U.S. and the Belgians are extremely similar, have played twice recently in friendlies which reuslted in Belgian victories but this could go all the way to penalty kicks. Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will likely have to sit back and defend for most of this one, as the form of ‘keeper Tim Howard is key. Can the stubborn American defense stop the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard and co.?

Key men

Belgium: Eden Hazard

USA: Tim Howard

source:

Leicester City’s Rodgers: “Good news” on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho doesn’t have attacking options, but he does have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.